As Ferriter rightly points out, technology is always changing. There will always be new and interesting apps and websites for teachers to use for things like formative assessment, digital storytelling, student feedback, digital portfolios, and more. Sometimes we can see an immediate connection between the tool and the learning objectives we have for our students. Other times, it's harder to make that connection, or we need to think deeper about it's true relevance and possible impact.
Recently I have found myself drawn to the wave of enthusiasm that surrounds augmented and virtual reality. I think that there is huge potential here. I really believe that these mixed reality tools could be something that we look back on one day as a way that technology made fundamental changes to the ways that students learn and interact with content. It might look like science fiction now, but one day it may well be science fact.
I say this with personal experience, because if you've been to an edtech conference in the last six months, you've probably seen something like an HTC Vive or an Oculus in the vendor hall. I did. I tried one on at the ITEC Fall Conference and was blown away. It was immersive, engaging, and unlike anything else I have ever done. However, as I flew high above a forest on a winged horse, and drove around a desert in a tank, I reflected later that it was also lacking in any real educational application. It was an amazing experience, of that I have no doubt, but it was not one that I could immediately see a need for in the classroom.
So, I remain cautious. Josh Allen says that if technology is an event in your school, you're doing it wrong. Does technology become and event in your school when you break out the Google Expeditions? Is AR & VR just another way of presenting content, or is it truly transformational? Does it encourage a learning approach that emphasizes consumption over creativity? Is the content that is being produced for AR and VR systems targeted enough to support classroom instruction, or are they really just educational games. Can AR & VR be used to personalize learning? Will it ever get to a point where it is affordable for all schools and be scalable?
These are some of the questions I am starting to wrestle with. I'm not going to tell you that I have all the answers here, because I don't. I have some ideas, but nothing more concrete than that. You see, part of my job at Grant Wood AEA is to look for emerging edtech trends. I get to be an early adopter of new technologies and research ways that they can be used to enhance teaching and learning. It's an exciting and invigorating thing to do, but despite the grandiose claims of a visionary startup's marketing department, not every app, website or product is going to be the game changer it might sound like. Some improve and evolve over time. Others just die and fade away.
So, if you haven't done this for a while, take a few moments to calibrate your edtech compass. Think critically about what you want your students to do with technology, and how you are using the technology that you have access to in your classroom. If you need some ideas, take a look at Bill Ferriter's image below and remember that technology is a tool, not a learning outcome.
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